Spring Seedlings Produce Succulent Summer Snacks
Spring is in the air. Well, maybe in some parts of the country but as I write this, I look out my window to see snow. Lots and lots of snow, six new inches arrived just last night to blanket the still frozen ground with a freezing stark white comforter. Comfort, HA, the only comfort I will experience this weekend is my end-of-winter planting project. My kitchen table transforms into a melee of seeds in all shapes and sizes, tiny green and black plastic containers and dirt, beautiful dark rich potting soil. Each item promises hope of greener days soon to come.
Whether you live in the frigid gray-skied north or the sunny south now is a good time to start thinking about the fruits (and veggies) of summer. You can do more than just think about them. You can start an indoor garden with very little effort that will produce a multitude of yummy treats for you and your monkeys. Your local library or Cooperative Extension has literature explaining how to do this, if you are a first time gardener. It is a nice family project as everyone can pitch in with either ideas of what to plant or participate in the actual preparation of your indoor garden.
Herbs for seasoning or healing attributes are always a favorite; flowering plants add color to your garden as well as tasty petals for consumption. Please, make sure the plants you choose are edible to avoid tummy aches or more serious illnesses. There are many detailed books including pictures on the market for you to investigate. Below is a partial list of edible plants to select from.
Onion, chive, and garlic flowers: Usually people harvest the plant to use when it starts to send up a flower stalk. For an unexpected treat, allow the plants to bloom - their flowers can be a delicious addition to a salad. Some chives produce blue flowers that add a pretty blush with an oniony taste. Just remember to harvest the flowers before they form seeds that are crunchy but have little flavor.
Basil: Be sure to pinch back the flowering tops of Basil plants to keep them from going to seed too early in the season. You can use those tops and flowers in several ways. Try making a tangy sun tea by filling a clean glass jar with bottled water. Then toss in a couple of tea bags, and add a handful of Cinnamon or Anise Basil flowering tops. Cover the jar and place it in the sun for a few hours. Herb vinegar is just as easy to prepare-simply substitute apple cider vinegar for the water and omit the tea bags. Your monkeys can enjoy munching on the fresh leaves.
Pineapple sage: This attractive plant sports small red flowers from late summer through Christmas. Pineapple sage blossoms are especially tasty in fruit salads for the monkeys. The blossoms or pineapple-scented leaves make a nice tea to drink while you watch the antics of your monkeys.
Dill: Long stalks of dill with flowering yellow flower heads are available all summer long. You can start these indoors or scatter dill seeds in the early spring or in the fall, and you'll get some pleasant surprises in your garden the following summer. If you plant this easy to grow "weed," be sure to harvest the flowering tops before they form seeds. I remember plucking dill flowers in my Gramma's garden to munch on as a child. The entire dill plant has been used for centuries in pickle recipes, so try your hand at pickle making - it's easier than you might think!
Chrysanthemum: Both the usual garden variety and the Asian variety called "Shungiku" are edible. The flowers are completely edible. They can be used in salads, stir-fry or as a tea.
Snow peas and regular garden peas: These small lavender or white flowers don't taste like peas, but they do have a pleasant flavor. However, be sure you consume only the flowers from garden peas (edible-podded, black-eyed, and other varieties) and not sweet peas. If you can eat the rest of the plant, or the fruit that it produces, you can usually eat the flowers.
Fuchsias: These colorful blossoms are not only pretty to look at but they taste good too!
Elderberry Flower (sambucus canadensis): Cut the flower with a very short stem so that you can just still hold it and tip it into pancake batter. Fry in a light oil. Serve with butter and jam or maple syrup.
Nasturtium (tropaeolum majus): Nasturtium flowers add color and a mildly pungent flavor to salads and sandwiches. The leaves and stems can also be used for soups and stews. The flavor is somewhat stronger than that of the flower, very pleasant and high in Vitamin C. The unripe seeds can be chopped and used in salad dressing.
Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis): Not to be confused with the ornamental marigold. Calendulas are a very attractive addition to any kind of salad for taste and flavor.
Scented Geraniums (pelargonium odoratissimum): Scented Geranium leaves can flavor teas, drinks, cakes, custards, fruit salads and sherbet.
Sweet Violets (viola odorata): and Johnny Jump Ups are edible.
Now get planting!!
(Published Spring 2001 issue of "The Primate Care
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